In the same vein as True Detective comes a crime fiction story from writer Curt Pires via ComiXology. Due out this week (12/7), Memoria is a new series following Pires’ most recent ComiXology hit, Lost Falls, and focuses on two troubled detectives who are assigned a case involving multiple murders spanning several decades.
Pires’ story is gritty, harsh, and deeply real, with artist Sunando C and color artist Mark Dale supplying a grit you don’t often see in comics. Joining them is letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, who continues to show a level of innovation that’s hard to miss.
To get a better understanding of Memoria, I sat down with Pires to discuss the series and its influences. In a candid interview, Pires also shares his thoughts on the comics industry as a whole and what he’s currently reading. For even more of this conversation, make sure to check out the AIPT Comics podcast next Sunday (December 12). There, we talk about author Cormac McCarthy, how Pires writes dialogue, and his thoughts on recent crime fiction in TV and movies, among other topics.
AIPT: How do you approach making a comic feel original and new?
Curt Pires: Well, I think it’s like a credit to the leadership over there [at ComiXology]. And sort of their tastes like they’re willing to take chances with new and interesting ideas, because I think a lot of the problem with the comics ecosystem and the comics publishing world is it’s very, like stale and sort of risk-averse. I really appreciate it and love working with Chip [Mosher] and David [Steinberger] and everyone at ComiXology. They’re willing to take a chance on these new ideas. I think it’s just showing beyond the stuff I’m doing. I think they’re doing a lot of really cool stuff, like the book [Chris] Sebela just put out was cool. Pretty high concept and out there and crazy. And I just think they’re doing some of the coolest stuff anywhere. And I’m just, you know, glad to be doing a bunch of, hopefully equally as cool books with them.
AIPT: When was the bud of the Memoria story started and then when did the script get finished?
CP: This one, I think I had a version of this idea going back almost six years now to 2015. I always wanted to do something that’s more of a straight drama that was sort of inspired by things like, you know, the films of Michael Mann, David Fincher, you know, sort of the serial killer stuff. And then, obviously, that first season of True Detective is incredible as well. So I want to do something that was sort of like a procedural nuance, very adult drama. I started sort of pitching that idea around, as I was sort of mentioning the lizard brain publishing executives didn’t really appreciate it at the time.
But fast forward a couple of years. I was in LA, while this was the same trip we sold the show to Amazon, I think, a couple of days after that. I was hanging out with Chip. And he’s like, “Well if you have a couple of other things, you’d want to like, bring new us. We need new content more than ever. And we love your stuff.” And so I pitched them Memoria and Lost Falls sort of at the same time. And yeah, we decided to do those together as well.
AIPT: In Memoria, there’s a vibe that you capture that I love. It’s like this darkness and this very realistic feel. How do you get into that vibe? And how do you get out of that vibe so you can feel happy later on?
CP: Well, unfortunately, it’s not very hard for me to get into that vibe. I’ve had a really rough sort of few years in my personal life and a lot of loss of my family and sort of just struggled before I was able to achieve this success and even during having all this good stuff happen, I’ve dealt with a lot of just f----d up stuff. So I just sort of mine that. It’s an outlet in a way I feel like a lot of kinship with these two detectives and just how sort of angry and sad they can be and I guess sort of an outlet in a way, right, writing these guys and I’ve really found myself like invested in those characters.
I think everyone who’s responding to this, and it’s mostly people who’ve been reading it early. So the mass audience could still hate it. But they’ve been really responding to just how real the book fails. And I think that’s because it’s grounded in emotional truth and sort of filling these characters with just things that I know a lot of people go through, myself included.
AIPT: You have two detectors one is older and sick. We have another one that is described in the solicit as young burnout. Why were those the types of detectives you went with the story in Memoria?
CP: So the one detective who was sick, was sort of really inspired by my dad who got sick and passed away a couple of years ago, who was really like, the toughest person I knew. He’d be, like, emaciated with cancer, and someone would give him bullshit, he would just basically tell him to go f--k himself, and be ready to sort of take on the world. From him is where I got a lot of my like, entrepreneurial spirit and also, I think my belief system of, sort of, you know, not letting people take advantage of the less fortunate.
But the younger character Daniels is sort of based on just a lot of different people I knew from various times in my life and could have been an alternate version of myself just all the stuff he went through sort of burnt him out and he sort of just circled the drain. So again, these are like very real characters that are inspired by people I know in my life but also just circumstances and sort of people you see on your journey who don’t always make it out of these situations in one piece.
AIPT: What was it like working with Sunando C and Mark Dale on this project?
CP: Sunando is amazing. When I discovered him he did a backup in this Image Comics book that came out and I sorta saw his artwork, I’m like, this is exactly the sort of vibe I want for this book. And I reached out to him and sort of talked to him and I think he’s only just gotten better and better as we worked on this book. So he’s incredibly talented and has got a realism to his work. Sorta reminds me of Alex Maleev a lot who I know is like an influence of his but I feel like it’s differences in their work, but I see a bit of that in there.
I think a lot of that too is our colorist Mark Dale who is using awesome palettes on this book. So again, I like to keep namedropping Fincher, his films have such a unique look and I think Mark sort of brought in that with a lot of these yellows and these browns and these greens and just the way everything has like a layer, like filth and dirt on it. It matches the themes of the book as these two guys go deeper and deeper into this case and sort of just realize how f----d everything is.
AIPT: Reading Memoria, which is about a serial killer who potentially killed hundreds, what kind of research did you do to get into it? And did you go too far and find yourself feeling sick to your stomach?
CP: Our society right now is very fascinated with these serial killer cases and all this stuff. And I think maybe it’s gone too far. But with the Netflix murder porn and all this stuff, because it doesn’t really humanize the victims, or really, maybe take the time to tell their story. I’d watched a lot of that stuff. I’m really fascinated by interesting true-crime documentary stuff like there’s HBO one Murder on Middle Beach. It’s really good. There’s Serial a few years back when the podcast was first coming out, I was just obsessed with it. And so I’ve invested a lot of that stuff, and been fascinated by it.
So I think I more wanted to mine the feeling of being engrossed in that mystery and combine it with some of these great films that I’ve really enjoyed, but I don’t get too deep into that stuff cuz I find it’s bullshit. If I was a cop, and I caught one of these serial killers I’m capping him, you know, like, f--k you. There’s no rehabilitation when your f-----g animal like that. So I don’t watch too much of that stuff. Unless it’s like, more based on the detectives and sort of focusing on them catching these monsters. I think that’s fascinating. Sort of an animated answer to your question.
AIPT: When you’re writing a story like this, are you trying to get every detail right? Are you worried a reader would catch something in the case that doesn’t quite add up?
CP: Yeah, I try to make it all add up and sort of being satisfying. But also, it’s like, if Goodreads has taught us anything, there’s always going to be some asshole out there who wants to just s--t all over your work. You can’t please everybody, there’s always gonna be that one nerd out there who’s gonna pick apart your story, no matter how well you construct it. So, I mean, it’s just again, about balance.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite David Fincher film because that was also referenced in the solicit for the first issue?
CP: I think Zodiac, that’s a big influence on this also loved his adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is also a really big influence on this one. Both those ones are great, but if I have to pick Zodiac.
AIPT: I was taken aback by the lettering in the in this in this book, the way the word balloons sort of meld around each other and never touch each other. Were there any notes that you gave Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou on this book with any of his style choices?
CP: No, I think Hassan is a genius and I don’t like using that word lightly. All the lettering has really enriched the storytelling and it adds to both the artistic aesthetic, but sort of the narrative as well. He’s probably the only person I know who works on as many projects as I do. He’s just super smart and so professional and such a hard worker. Yeah, I can’t really put into words how much respect I have for him as a collaborator. But he’s brilliant.
AIPT: Do you as a comics writer read other comics? Are you reading any current series right now?
CP: Yeah, I’ve read a lot of comics I order comics every week from the same shop I’ve been going to since I was about 12. To be honest, a lot of it I find very boring and mediocre right now but there’s some really great stuff happening too, like Radio Apocalypse I thought that was pretty cool. I really like Ram’s work a lot. I followed the Hickman X-Men stuff, I think, the end of it has been a bit disappointing. Like, finish your story.
There’s so much cool stuff, but there’s also so much s--t that’s just like, pushed by these editors. We’re just sort of middlemen. So like, what I’m trying to do is just like, let’s freshen things up. As I sort of work and build up my company, I’m going to be able to publish and promote stuff by creators that I think are really cool as well. So like, putting my money where my mouth is a bit in that regard. People need to take more chances.
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